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MCAEL Grants Program

MCAEL FY21 Grant submission period has ended.
Find FY21 Grant Recipient info here.

Introduction and Purpose

MCAEL strengthens the community by advancing a coalition of organizations dedicated to enabling all Montgomery County residents to achieve their full potential by improving their English language skills. Our mission is to support a thriving community and effective workforce. MCAEL seeks to increase the availability of adult ESOL and literacy services that support identified community needs and diverse populations and to improve the quality of these services.  

Grant types/use of funds

MCAEL offers two types of grants - Adult English Literacy Program Grants and Literacy Access Grants:

For Adult English Literacy Program Grants, funding may be used to maintain, expand, and improve delivery of adult English literacy services to those who live and/or work in Montgomery County.  This includes supplementary services that enable more learners to attend ESOL classes, such as childcare and transportation support. Grant funding can also be used to strengthen the program management and organizational capacity of the organization to deliver English literacy services.  

Applicants for Program Grants must:  

  • Offer 120 hours of instructional time a year per learner (e.g. 3 hrs/wk. for 40 weeks)
  • Have an established infrastructure (staff and standard ESOL program components in place, including assessment measures) 
  • Be able to show a solid track record demonstrating the ability to successfully carry out the program
  • Have managed enrollment for its classes (registration dates with session start/end dates – not drop-in)

Literacy Access Grants are limited to a maximum of $20,000 and designed to support:   

  • Classes that are drop-in (adult learners may join at any time during a session/semester);
  • Start-up programs that may not have assessment or other TESOL standard components in place (such as a church providing a conversation club)
  • Classes not situated in a larger ESOL program (for example, an organization with a single ESOL class in one location); and/or
  • Programs that offer less than 120 hours of instructional time per learner per year. 

MCAEL funding cannot be used for: 

  • Refreshments or food
  • Gift cards or gifts for volunteers (stipends are acceptable)

Who is Eligible to Apply?

Applicants must be a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, have a similar designation from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or have a partnership that includes a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status. Nonprofits must be incorporated under state law. While applicants can have offices outside Montgomery County, beneficiaries of funded services must be either Montgomery County residents or employed in Montgomery County.  An organization may apply for MCAEL funding regardless of whether it has applied for other County-administered grant programs. Applicants who receive funding one year are not guaranteed funding in subsequent years – funding is dependent on many factors including performance in the current and/or previous years. 

Funds and Funding Levels

Historically, funding requests have exceeded the amount of funds available. Thus, competition for grant funds is strong. Please be aware that even if an application is successful, the MCAEL Grant Review Panel may recommend that the applicant be awarded a partial level of funding. Applicants are encouraged to take this information into account while developing program plans and budgets for the coming year. MCAEL strongly encourages creative partnerships that leverage resources (e.g. for childcare, transportation, space). The total amount of funds available will be in accordance with the final approved County budget for the fiscal year. All programs supported by the grant must be implemented during the grant period of July 1, [fiscal year start] – June 30, [fiscal year end].  All grant funds must be spent within this period; any funds that are not spent within this timeframe may be recaptured by MCAEL. 

Due to the timing of the county disbursement process, funds will likely not be available before September 1 [of that fiscal year]. For reference, information on awards granted in previous years is available here

Panel Review Process

All funding decisions are made by a volunteer Grant Review Panel composed of community members. The panel members are selected to represent a diversity of experience and expertise in one or more of the following: a local community and the community’s needs, nonprofit management, adult ESOL or education, and/or government/nonprofit grantmaking. (See here for more information on serving as a grant panelist.)

Each panelist attends an in-depth orientation, and reads and evaluates all proposals based on the criteria in the Proposal Evaluation Guide (see Grant Guidelines). The Grant Panel divides into small groups to interview applicants to clarify questions about individual proposals. (Any additional materials that applicants bring to the interviews will not be considered by the panel.) Finally, the entire Grant Panel convenes to discuss each proposal and recommend funding allocations. For previous grant recipients, grant compliance and program performance will be referred to in the process. The Grant Panel’s recommendations are then sent to the MCAEL Board of Directors for final approval. Board members who are themselves providers are excluded from this approval process. 

MCAEL staff members support applicants through the process and coordinates with the Grant Review Panel to facilitate the grants process; MCAEL staff members do not make funding decisions or vote on funding allocations.

Grant Application Timeline

  • January: Grant Guidelines available on MCAEL website.
  • January: MCAEL Grants Information Session webinar
  • February: MCAEL Grants Portal open for applications.
  • March: MCAEL staff available by appointment for specific application questions. Priority will be given to first-time applicants, new program staff, and access grant applicants. 
  • April: Application deadline – applications must be submitted through the MCAEL Grants Portal.
  • May: In-person applicant interviews with MCAEL Grant Review Panel. 
  • May: County Council approves County budget.
  • Early June: Grant Panel meets to develop funding recommendations. MCAEL board meets to review recommendations and approve grant awards. Applicants are notified in writing of the MCAEL board’s final funding decision. Awards also announced on the MCAEL website.

Grant Guidelines

The guidelines will be posted in January for FY22. The listed documents can be used as a reference.  

•    FY21 Program Grant Guidelines and Application Questions
•    FY21 Program Grant Data and Budget Workbook
•    FY21 Access Grant Guidelines and Application Questions
•    FY21 Access Grant Data and Budget Workbook

We encourage applicants to refer to MCAEL’s Interactive maps and analysis when developing your application.  The FY18 data presentation is available here. This presentation has not yet been updated for FY19, but please click here for static maps and a preliminary analysis of FY19 learner data.

For questions about whether your organization or project aligns well with MCAEL's priorities, please Contact Us.

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